Two days after the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruled political parties were within the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, a Goa information crusader is already on the job.
Kashinath Shetye, a former government employee, filed an RTI petition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seeking information on the party’s cash and donation receipts from mining companies, and contributions made by its legislators and office bearers.
“An application under the RTI Act has been submitted to the BJP. Similar applications will be submitted to the Congress, NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), and regional parties like the Maharshtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Vikas Party (GVP),” Shetye told IANS.
One piece of the information Shetye has sought in his RTI plea is: “Total donations received by the BJP from Vedanta/Sesa Goa and other mining companies.”
Although the cosy relationship between mining firms and political parties is well known in Goa, it is scarcely documented.
On record, Sesa Goa Pvt. Ltd., the state’s biggest ore producer and exporter, paid Rs.85 lakh to the BJP and Rs.30 lakh to the Congress party in 2009-10. The MGP received Rs.2 lakh, while Shiv Sena got Rs.1 lakh during the same year.
This roughly coincides with the period when Goa’s mining output was at its peak and so was the illegal mining.
Shetye has also sought to know if it is compulsory for every BJP legislator to contribute towards party fund. “If yes, please provide complete and detailed information,” the petition said.
The petitioner has asked the BJP whether it is aware about any of its legislators’ involvement in corruption and, if so, what action has been taken by the party.
The RTI application also seeks copies of the party’s election manifesto from 1999-2012 to check whether “all the promises made in these election manifestoes (were) fulfilled after the BJP formed its government in the state”.
In his application, Shetye has sought file notings on the movement of his RTI petition.
A senior BJP leader, however, said that the party’s central leadership was still studying the CIC order and the state unit is yet to receive any direction from them on the protocol to be followed on RTI applications.
“We will need some time to modify the organisational structure and streamline our information channel if we are to entertain RTI applications,” the BJP leader said.
Shetye, however, said that if he did not receive a reply to his RTI plea, he would push it again and then approach the high court for relief.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar Tuesday welcomed the CIC ruling on bringing political parties within the ambit of the RTI Act.
On donations given to political parties, Parrikar said it was “okay to take donations, but not (in exchange) for getting some work done”. The chief minister, however, also cautioned that the RTI Act was being “misused” by some people.